A-R International: Antanas Sileika

Antanas Sileika
Authors-Readers International

Photo credit: Irmantas Gelunas

Antanas Sileika (Antanas Šileika) is a Canadian novelist and critic.

He was born in Weston, Ontario.

After completing an English degree at the University of Toronto, he moved to Paris for two years and there married his wife, Snaige Sileika (nee Valiunas), an art student at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.  While in Paris,  he worked as part of the editorial collective of the expatriate literary journal, Paris Voices, run from the upstairs room of the bookstore, Shakespeare and Company.

Upon his return to Canada in 1979, Antanas began teaching at Humber College and working as a co-editor of the Canadian literary journal, Descant, where he remained until 1988.

He became involved through journalism  with Lithuania’s restitution of independence during the fall of The Soviet Union 1988-1991, and for this activity he received the Knight’s Cross medal from the Lithuanian government in 2004.

A past winner of a national magazine award, he retired in June of 2017 as the director for the Humber School for Writers in Toronto.

After writing for newspapers and magazines, Antanas published his first novel, Dinner at the End of the World (1994), a speculative story set in the aftermath of global warming.

His second book, a collection of linked short stories, Buying On Time (1997), was nominated for both the City of Toronto Book Award and the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour, and was serialized on CBC Radio’s Between the Covers. In 2016, almost twenty years later, it was long-listed for Canada Reads and the translation was short-listed in Lithuania for Book of the Year. The book traces the lives of a family of immigrants to a Canadian suburb between the fifties and seventies. Some of these stories were anthologized in Dreaming Home, Canadian Short Stories, and the Penguin Anthology of Canadian Humour. Antanas has published three more novels and a memoir.

Antanas Sileika has worked frequently as a reviewer of books for radio, television, and print.

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When I enrolled in the Humber School for Writers in 2006 to their online programme (I was living full-time on Bequia then, so online learning was new to me and very convenient), Antanas Sileika was the director. I did not meet him in person during the course, but I attended a session at Humber College later when I was back in Toronto for a visit, and I met him then. We also met up years later at the University of Calgary when we both attended a Canadian conference on creative writing programmes. I had set up a table displaying books by authors I was promoting, many of whom were also present at that conference. Antanas is now retired from that position of director and is concentrating on his own writing. I’ve read his most recent novel (below) and found the historical fiction about his parents’ homeland of Lithuania fascinating. And, needless to say, very well written! (While Antanas was born in Canada and has lived most of his life in the country, I’m going to add to his A-RI listing that he is descended from Lithuanians, because that country plays a large part in all of his writing.)

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Provisionally Yours

After World War I and the collapse of Czarist Russia, former counterintelligence officer Justas Adamonis returns to Lithuania, a fragment of the shattered Empire. He’s not entirely sure what he’ll find. His parents are dead, he hasn’t seen his sister since she was a teenager, and Kaunas has become the political center of the emerging state. He’s barely off the train when he’s recruited back into service, this time for the nascent government eager to secure his loyalty and experience. Though the administration may be new, its problems are familiar, and Adamonis quickly finds himself ensnared in a dangerous web of political corruption and personal betrayal. Antanas Sileika’s Provisionally Yours is a vivid depiction of realpolitik—as well as an unforgettable story about treachery and the enduring human capacity for love.

Read the review of Provisionally Yours in Publishers’ Weekly.

“Offers the delightful unearthing of a little-known corner of the world—post-war Lithuania. Espionage, illicit love, bureaucratic bungling, marvelous descriptions of food and drink, strong women, desperate men. And subtle humour. And ultimately sadness, brought on by amorality in the struggle for power. A fine read.” —David Bergen, Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning author of The Time in Between

What Antanas Sileika is doing now:  I have a novel manuscript called Skylark, Badger, Mole out for consideration, set in The Soviet Union in the late fifties. And while the acquisition editor is thinking, I am completing a comic novel-in-progress called The Seaside Cafe Metropolis, loosely based on the opera, La Boheme and the Broadway Play, Rent.

For more information about Antanas Sileika, his books and writing, please see his website.

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